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Double Your Chances at Winning an Oscar!

I know, it's not the most earth-shattering of news, but the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now opening up the Best Picture Oscar sweepstakes to ten -- count 'em, ten -- films is pretty big stuff around here.

The last time the academy allowed ten nominees in the top category was in 1943, when ''Casablanca'' won. Not shabby, but now the question is, will the double-digit field encourage better as well as more films? Or will it be a promotional vehicle [look for twice as many morning-after ads reading ''nominated for Best Picture!'']?

Sid Ganis, the president of the Academy, told me that it's a great opportunity to open up the category. He was a bit coy about his own choices, but he did point to, for example, popular but non-nominated films like ''Dark Night,'' and ''Iron Man'' -- and maybe one day a documentary could win Best Picture.
There's the potential for a double win, of course, if an animated picture wins both for Best Animated, and Best Picture, period.

But if you could hear the sound of eyebrows being raised across town, it would have been cacophonous. People I've heard from seem skeptical that expanding the field will improve quality or expand the definition of ''best.'' My guest Robert Osborne, film historian, TV host and author of ''80 Years of the Oscar,'' is concerned that a field of ten instead of five might end up diluting the special quality of the Academy Award [I think I'm supposed to put a little circled R there for ''registered trademark,'' but if it's anywhere on this keyboard, I can't find it!]

Police Chief Bill Bratton was in fine form today, extolling a Los Angeles Times poll showing that, for the first time in about two decades, civic regard for the LAPD is getting positive poll numbers to rival President Obama's. He said he was heartened by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's decision to keep the home fires burning and not run for governor. And he dusted off one of his favorite digs -- ''loony tunes'' -- to characterize certain city council members and retired LAPD officers who are battling his decision not to let them wear their uniforms or badges any more to work security for movie sets. The chief thinks the city's liability for those ''impersonating officers'' could be tremendous, and that's just one of his objections.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines joined us, fresh from a Board of Education vote approving, reluctantly, northwards of a billion dollars in budget cuts over three years. One among a number of calls asked the superintendent whether some teacher layoffs could be avoided with union concessions -- absolutely, yes, said the superintendent, but the teachers' union has to be the one to come up with those ideas, and in months of negotiations, he says, it hasn't.

The fiscal year begins next Wednesday. Will the sky be falling? Look up -- carefully.